Public notices

The taxpaying public needs more notice of its government business, not less. That’s the main reason lawmakers should reject Assembly Bill 267 as written.

The bill, which has its initial hearing Monday before the Government Affairs Committee, would allow the publication of legal notices on the websites of newspapers and television and radio stations. That’s a great idea — the more notice the better. But AB267 would allow those Internet advertisements in lieu publication in the print editions of newspapers, removing them from the dominant domain of information in Nevada communities. That’s a bad idea.

Yes, newspapers such as this one are paid to publish these notices, and print advertising costs more than Internet advertising. But that’s for good reason: newspapers reach more people on a more consistent basis than websites do. On the other hand, Web readers must seek out legal notices — assuming they have Internet access in the first place. There is no guarantee those notices will ever be viewed.

Curiously, AB267 also would require newspapers to publish the Internet address where the legal notice can be read, as well as a mailing address and phone number where a government agency can be reached for requests for copies of the notice. Why spend the money to make readers go somewhere else for the information they need?

Supporters view this bill as a cost-savings measure. But government has a fundamental responsibility to notify the public of its plans and actions. Without adequate notice, the public won’t know what governments are doing and won’t get a say. There’s no value in that.

A similar bill, AB4, would shift legal notices from newspapers to government websites, creating the potential for abuse by public officials who wish to delay or manipulate notices. This bill is a threat to the public interest as well.

More Internet-based notice of government business is fine — as long as it doesn’t result in less notice through independent print media.

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